Some people have said the do it yourself mentality is slowly dying off in the snowboard world. No Way! Snowboards out of the Tahoe area is a throwback to companies of the past that had this mentality. Officially launching for next season right now they’re just setting their brand up. Andrew Guddat one of the Owners and the Art Director was able to give his look on all things snowboard related in this interview.
Angry Snowboarder: You guys are definitely a by snowboarders for snowboarders company that seems to have a lot of similar principals to brands started by riders in the 90’s and early 2000’s. Whom do you look at as far as rider driven companies as inspiration?
Andrew Guddat: There’s lots of little things I’ve taken from different experiences. When I was younger and was on the Rome bandwagon one thing I really loved was how easy everyone was to talk to the there. I remember I thought it was so cool that I could get a hold of Ron Faverty (the communications director there) and get a reply in a day. We used to talk all the time about things that had absolutely nothing to do with snowboarding. I think what I really learned was that a company should create a friendship with their customers and not just answer questions with brief replies and take care of business in a personal manner. We take a lot of pride in consumer contact and want to hear what riders have to say.
Smokin has also been a bit of an influence on us too. I’ve gotten to know Joe Fontaine a little bit (one of the owners there) and he has a total DIY attitude. Also seeing their sense of humor has made for a good time, I’ve enjoyed seeing a lot of it come out of there.
Kinda helps you remember you can have a mission and have a good time carrying that mission out.
Like a creeping behemoth No Way! comes out of the shadows.
AS: History has a way of repeating itself and a lot of rider driven companies have faltered in the past. What lessons have you learned from the history and how have you prepared yourself to not repeat them?
AG: One thing we’ve been trying to do is maintain a steady flow of growth instead of jumping the gun and getting ahead of ourselves and getting in a situation where we need a ton of capital really fast. We most definitely don’t want to end up with some parent company that mass produces toasters. At that point It doesn’t make sense to me to keep the company running if your company isn’t even fully under your control any more. We started this to throw up the finger at the people who’s practices we think are hurting snowboarding as a whole. We don’t want to be owned by them. M3 ran into a capital problem and everyone knows their production quality went drastically down after they got bought out.
There’s also some companies that are pretty “Successful” right now who I think have drifted from their starting ideals. Production is now moving to Taiwan, and you can find the majority of their product in mega sporting goods stores where customer service and the retailer/consumer relationship is no longer a concern. I think its tempting to a lot of people to make moves that cut costs and increase profit margins with the idea that your increased profits will allow you to benefit the consumers with lower costs and events. Personally I think that line of thinking is a load of crap. Why would anyone want to show up to your events and/or buy your “More affordable” product if the product you put your name on is a piece of shit? I think its just a trade off of quality in exchange for advertising. This one is pretty easy for us to avoid, my own personal conviction would keep me from sleeping at night if I went down that road.
We’re also really trying to avoid any sort of overproduction problems as well; doing that once can ruin your brand. Being that retailers most likely won’t want to stock you again after you pushed them into buying way more product then they could practically sell the season before. We don’t ever want to push a shop past what they think they can sell, they are a better judge of how much product their shop is capable of moving. Especially with the current state of the economy the last thing a shop needs is some guy telling him he needs to take more risks.
AS: Is being rider driven or for riders by riders a bit played out in this day and age?
AG: Yes, to a level. If I hear the term “Rider owned and operated” like its some big deal I always cringe a little. If your brand relies on the fact that the owners and employees all snowboard I think it shows your company doesn’t have much going for it.
Just because someone snowboards doesn’t mean that they’re the kinda people you’d want to buy from. Some guys that snowboard are total assholes. I’ve met them before. I think that’s another place where the relationship between manufacturers and consumers is important. Not only can it help make them a sale but it builds loyalty. Most everyone I think prefers to buy something from a friend instead of a stranger. And I like to make friends so I have a lot of fun running all the email and web stuff.
I think what’s important in a company’s owner is that people can actually talk to the guy. He/ She can’t be some elitist pig who takes no interest in building relations with his potential consumers. People want to buy things from people they can relate to. I think that’s why the tagline “Rider owned and operated” is so common. Companies are trying to basically claim in one line, that they are people you want to buy from.
AS: Being relatively small and a slightly obscure brand what issues do you continuously face with getting your brands image and name out there?
AG: I think the hardest thing for us is skepticism. People hear that we are local and small and instantly assume we’re that company that’s run by some bro that is all talk. I think we’ve all had that one friend that never gets anything done and is always telling everyone how rad his brand/company/project is going to be. So we’ve had to work with some skeptics for sure. It’s been really fun to watch kids go from thinking we’re just a concept of a company to being that kid that Is super stoked about it and riding our product.
We have stumbled on some free advertising which has been nice, but for the most part things have been spread by word of mouth. Personally I think web and magazine ads are somewhat pointless. You could spend the 1/8th the amount of money making content that people actually want to see. We don’t have bajillions of dollars to waste on brainwashing people into memorizing our logo and name who probably don’t even care. Why would we do that when we can make fun stuff to watch instead?
Want some shred little kid?
AS: Naming yourself No Way seems to be your statement to a lot of the politics and bad things in snowboarding that have taken a foothold in this industry. In your opinion what are some of the biggest issues this industry faces and what would you like to see done to help rectify them?
AG: To me it seems the biggest problem is the current assault on shops. Manufacturers are now starting to compete with the guy thats worked his ass off for the past X amount of years to sell and promote that brand. I think shop owners are getting a little agitated with these types of moves. What I think brands can do to start rectifying this is either:
A) Stop making moves that put you in direct competition with your shops.
B) Start using a selling system that keeps inventory at all your shops and then ships the product out from the shops instead of your factory. This way your actually helping your shop make a sale instead of potentially hurting their sales. I know there a few companies with this in use right now, I think its a pretty cool idea.
Another big problem is the lack in communication between riders and companies. Riders have a great amount of good ideas and valuable feedback. And I feel few companies are actually listening to them. The level of personal communication between riders and companies I think has decreased way too much. Brands are just putting out product and expecting people to buy it without ever really getting anyone to really connect with them and make the sale personal. Although companies with that model can do really well sometimes, we’re not really interested in selling to a niche of weekend warriors as we are in selling to everyday riders. I think
building relationships with the riders that do care about quality, business practices, and rider communications can go a long way into spreading the word to riders who may not be as informed or interested in those aspects of a brand.
I think some of these problems can be rectified by riders/consumers as well as businesses. If you don’t like that X company is using a certain business practice, then send em an email, inform them why your not buying from them and then go buy from the company that is doing what you think is right. I realize that there will always be buyers who don’t really give a shit and just buy whatever is the cheapest but if your vocal about it you can make a change in the industry. Remember, these companies work off of your hard earned cash. The smart ones will take note of what you want in a snowboard product.
AS: In a world of companies starting to sell factory direct or opening flagship stores right next to their biggest accounts you’re embracing the small shop, why is this?
AG: As someone who is trying to sell a product I’ve tried to have all the same standards I would as a buyer. So the exclusion of direct sales or strictly online retailers is something that I instantly ruled out from the get go.
Shops offer something a mega discount online super store (or direct seller) can’t, a personal experience. Shops offer a unique community and culture. They have served as the backbone of many snowboarding communities and help foster the comradery that I love so much. Shops also have the ability to create loyalty unlike a faceless online sale. Which I think can be really good for a brand.
I think many people may have a bad take on supporting local shops because they either never walked into one or have never been in a good shop. There are definitely some shops who have a strange elitist attitude that we want nothing to do with. But as for those shops that do foster that untamed raw culture thats where we want to be.
I think online sales do have their place though because there are people who don’t necessarily have local shops or don’t know what they’re missing out on at local shops and have to buy online because of that. But I prefer to stock product at a place that is still fostering that community locally with a physical shop at the same time. There are a couple shops that are doing that right now. Eternal here in Reno has three shops (one which doubles as a small warehouse) that they are operating out of as well as a decently sized online business. I think its a awesome way for a shop to bring business online and with its current business model we would feel good supporting it with our product.
I can guarantee you won’t find our product at a place like The-House that has no real storefront or shop culture. Its not something we want to support with our sales. Supporting shop culture is extremely important to us.
AS: How important is it to offer various camber options for people and not pigeon hole yourself with just one offering?
AG: Snowboarding is a Artform, everyone executes their craft a little different than the next guy. I like to think of our company as being a art supplier who makes paintbrushes. You can’t just make one type of paintbrush for every painter. Their needs and styles are different and need to be facilitated with different brushes. If there was one perfect snowboard that could do everything there would probably not be so many different sizes, flex patterns, shapes, and cambers. As a business owner I wish I could just turn out one snowboard that meet everyones needs so I wouldn’t have to worry about certain models underselling others but I know its unrealistic to try and do that. Offering different cambers I think is really important to open yourself up to a larger group of artists/ snowboarders. I do think Reverse is partially hype, but I think its also here to stay. Its one more preference that riders will learn to make.
In the next few years we hope to diversify our lineup and make more specialized snowboards than what we currently offer. Right now The Catalyst is a great ride for us but we would love to split it up and make a more jib oriented board as well as a more jump oriented board. Although we want to have some diversity we don’t really have any intentions of making non-freestyle boards. I think there are some great companies out there who have those niches fulfilled already (like Winterstick and Jones).
AS: Break down the style of reverse camber you’re utilizing for all the tech heads out there?
AG: Its a simple 3 stage rocker flat in between the feet and 4 mm of rise outside the feet. Personally I love the retention of traditional camber too much to make the trade off for the press-ability and maneuverability of rocker. To each his own though. Most of the kids I’ve talked to love it.
AS: What is Babe Magnet Technology?
AG: Babe Magnet Technology is a pretty intense process. Basically we harvest the “Corn” from a unicorn which we then grind up into a fine dust. Then we contract out to a wizard/chemist who puts a enchantment on the corn dust. This dust then goes through a humidifying process which the woodcore then absorbs. Although it does add a bit of weight we think it is totally worth the trade off. The magical properties allow riders to tap into the full potential of their snowboarding skills and ride harder and faster then ever previously imagined. Which in turn will turn anybody who rides a NW! into a Babe Magnet.
Unfortunately this is also the dark side of No Way! We have to harvest the corn while the unicorn is still alive. So even though we have a few good things going for us like supporting shop culture and being a high consumer contact company. We aren’t really ones to endorse anti-animal cruelty movements or hunting restrictions (specifically on unicorns).
Babe Magnet Technology is a joke. We like to claim its all in the wood. We were kinda taking a shot at all the current marketing that gets written off as being “NEW TECHNOLOGY!!!” that really is just a scheme to make kids think the’ll be a better snowboarder if they buy it and get rid of last years gear. In reality all they’re doing is throwing a perfectly good snowboard in the closet in exchange for the same snowboard with a new graphic on it. Its a form of satire for us. Obviously we can’t make ugly dudes more attractive or more likely to score. (if we could I would be hot shit right now).
I’ve always been more willing to buy something from somebody if they can make me laugh. This technology is really just to give people a laugh. If we receive very much negative feedback on it we will probably discontinue it in the future.
AS: What does Made In America mean for you as a brand?
AG: Made in America for us is synonymous with quality control. It gives us a level of control that we wouldn’t be able to have if we just outsourced to Austria. I haven’t been super impressed with the stuff coming out of the Elan or GST factories anyways. Seems to me it’s gone downhill in just the past year, that’s just from what I see in my little circle of the world though. Maybe I’ve just had bad luck in the past with those places. I know that there are also other places making boards in Austria and those places are quite possibly turning out boards with the same attention to detail and level of durability that is just as good or possibly even better than us. But keeping it in America to me shows that a brand is willing to pay the price to keep it under control and local.
For the eco-kids or ultra patriotic it might interest you to know that almost every component of our snowboards come from America (with exception to the top sheet material and unicorn corndust).